Added pounds and all, Herget still hungry
He may not have touched a baseball for roughly sixth months in the offseason, but Jimmy Herget still battled, still dug deep, still found a way to periodically add a little mustard.
Or marshmallows, depending on how many calories he was trying to pile on.
"Just ate more," USF's angular right-handed ace said of his offseason quest to add weight. "Ate as much as I possibly could."
Indeed, metabolism waged a fiercer duel with Herget than the pesky contact hitter fouling off a succession of nasty sliders and cutters. Peanut butter, jelly and marshmallow sandwiches -- tons of them -- were chased by protein shakes.
The grand total of his gorging: 15 pounds. Herget took the mound for last Friday's season opener in Jacksonville at roughly 165.
"It was a battle, definitely," the 6-foot-3 reigning Big East Rookie of the Year said. "I'd get like, 5 pounds up, I'd go back to bed, I'd wake up in the morning and I had lost 7 pounds. It's ridiculous sometimes."
Yet the Bulls are counting on that added mass, as moderate as it seems, to help Herget build on his dazzling freshman season (6-2, 1.72 ERA, 94 IP), when he evolved into the Bulls' Friday night starter.
In Saturday's season opener against 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifier Liberty in Jacksonville, Herget scattered five hits in seven innings, striking out one and walking none in a 2-1 triumph. He's expected to get the ball for Friday's 7 p.m. home opener against Penn State.
"He's bigger, he's stronger, and that's a good thing and a bad thing because he's throwing the ball a little harder," Bulls coach Lelo Prado said.
"So he's gonna think he can just rare back and blow it by guys, but when he's good he's a pitcher, so I'm hoping he continues that streak.
"He stayed here all summer and worked hard on the weights. You don't see it much on his body because he's a real skinny kid, but he's about 12-15 pounds heavier this year."
The only thing lighter was his offseason workload. Despite some mild resistance, Prado shut down Herget the entire offseason to preserve an arm that never had thrown more than 50 innings in a season at Jefferson High.
Once the 2013 season ended at the Big East Conference tournament last May, Herget said he didn't pick up a baseball again until early November.
"I didn't want to (rest) because I love playing baseball and I just love every bit of it," he said. "At the time, when they told me I needed to stay (home), I was kind of mad and stuff like that, but then I understood and sort of got what they were trying to do."
Since returning, he has refined a change-up he began developing last season, while polishing his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, and his slider. He estimates his velocity is at the fringe of 90 mph.
"Every time he takes the rubber, you're confident behind him," junior shortstop Kyle Teaf said. "He had guys off-balance all year and it was a joy to play defense behind him, because he's got guys rolling over all the time. He's just got that bulldog mentality."
With an appetite to match.